Michael K. Williams, Omar From ‘The Wire,’ Is Dead at 54
As a swaggering lone wolf in a story largely defined by continuing battles between the police and various crime bosses and crews, Omar was one of prime-time’s preeminent antiheroes in a TV era defined by them. He was also gay and openly so in the homophobic, coldblooded world of murder and drugs, a groundbreaking portrayal of Black masculinity on television.
“I saw a lot of homophobia in my community,” Mr. Williams told The New York Times in 2019. “Omar definitely helped soften the blow of homophobia in my community and it opened up a dialogue, definitely.”
Mr. Williams grew up in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he said he had never envisioned a life outside the borough. But before he was 30, he had parlayed his love for dance into dancing roles with the singers George Michael and Madonna, and choreographed and performed in the video for Crystal Waters’s hit single, “100% Pure Love.” He then landed his first acting opportunity when he caught the eye of Tupac Shakur.
At 25 years old, Mr. Williams got the scar that became his signature physical feature and that helped to define him as an actor. He was spending his birthday at a bar in Queens when a man slashed his face with a razor blade during a fight. After that, directors no longer wanted him as a backup dancer; they wanted him in “thug roles,” he told NPR in 2014.